5th > May > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Brit firms fall down on Web site support

British companies are failing to provide adequate online support to cope with e-commerce queries, according to research by Sunrise Software. Although more than 55 per cent of businesses say they have witnessed an increase in the number of Net-generated enquiries since launching their Web services, less than 40 per cent offer a Web-based support function. Half of the companies questioned provided an e-mail contact service and only ten per cent had a Web-link direct to a support centre. Almost two thirds of companies with integrated Net support found customer enquiries quicker and easier to deal with, it said. "Email is a step forward in Web support, but too many companies still aren't offering fast enough problem resolution for their online customers," said Nick Payne, sales and marketing manager at Sunrise Software. "Companies have been quick to set up Web sites, but forgotten that Internet users need service too," he said. "Lack of customer support provided by e-commerce companies is causing customers to become one hit Web wonders," he said. Surrey-based Sunrise Software makes help desk software solutions.
Tim Richardson, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

NEC cuts back on Rambus production

As the price of 64Mb memory rises, major semiconductor firm NEC has started to put chips on allocation, according to analysts Bear Stern. And, at the same time, NEC insiders is believed to have now realised it vastly overrestimated the impact of Rambus memory and is taking steps to cut back supply and shift production lines to SDRAM (synchronous memory). Although conventional NEC memory is not yet on allocation, the Japanese firm has raised the contract price of parts to its large PC customers by 25 cents, meaning that 64Mb parts are now likely to cost $6.50. PC customers are anxious to stake their claim for supplies from the Japanese electronics giant, and already placing orders for as much as up to six months in advance. However, the $6.50 price is unlikely to hold during this period, and, indeed are likely to rise. Hard allocation of parts is likely during the second half of this year, Bear Sterns is warning its clients. The demand for synchronous memory is such that NEC is to scale back wafer starts for Rambus memory and use the production lines for SDRAM instead, the same sources added.
Mike Magee, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

AMD's roadmap: the facts

Anandtech reveals what it describes as the facts about AMD's roadmap on these pages. More on the Athlon, the Thunderbird, the Mustang, the Doo-ron-ron-ron and the doo-ron-ron. At Tom's Hardware, there's a piece about WinHEC 2000. This annual conference usually has some good stuff about what's up and coming on the hardware front. Ace's Hardware, which you can find here, says it will review an Alpha DS10 system running Linux today. What a fine microprocessor the Alpha is. Now if only there was a version of Win2000 available for it. There's a preview of the Willamettte processor over at Hardware Central. At Sharky's, there's a step by step guide to building a PC.
Mike Magee, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Accountancy firm fails piracy audit

A British accountancy firm has been fined for software piracy after an informant squealed to the BSA. Watford-based JSA Services was fined 47,000 after it admitted having unlicensed software on its company network. The informant stands to pocket the biggest reward yet from the BSA - 4700 - along with the satisfaction of bringing a bunch of software ne'er-do-wells to book. "BSA receives on average one lead every working day on UK organisations suspected to be using software unlawfully," warned Mike Newton. "Companies which don't have enough user licenses or which make illegal copies of software run an ever-increasing risk of prosecution." Last month high street retailer WHSmith was fined 4000 for using pirated software after an email tip-off to the BSA. "The cost to the company's reputation is potentially even greater when the case becomes public knowledge," added Newton. Which now, thanks to the BSA, it is.
Linda Harrison, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel says no probs with flip chips cracking

Semiconductor firm Intel said today that it has had no reports of packaging cracking on its FC-PGA (flip chip packaging) microprocessors. But, at the same time, it has warned enthusiasts that they need to use the right type of heat sink with the socketed chips to avoid damaging the packaging. That follows reports on an overclocker's page, which we reported in our hardware roundup yesterday, suggesting several instances of Intel FC-PGA chips cracking. A spokesman for Intel said: "It's important to use the right kind of heatsink with FC-PGA packaging". He said that while heat sinks designed for ceramic socketed microprocessors might look like they would work with the plastic packaged chips, the thickness of heat sinks designed for FC-PGA chips was different. He added: "We haven't seen any reports of this packaging breaking." Intel worked with its PC customers to design heat sinks specifically tailored to FC-PGA chips, and these were made to exacting specifications, he said.
Mike Magee, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Love Bug mutates faster than Pokemon

Net users may have been left with an unsightly love bite after yesterday's electronic billet-doux but experts are warning that the worst is yet to come. For the "love bug" has mutated itself into at least four new variants, according to Ohio-based virus busters, Central Command. According to this outfit, the variants have been spreading as fast as the original ILOVEYOU worm and with the same deadly payload. It has already reached an epidemic level never seen before throughout the world, the company said. The known variants have "ILOVEYOU", "Susitikim shi vakara kavos puodukui..." and "Fw: Joke" in the subect line. "We are now seeing four new variants of the I-Worm.LoveLetter worm spreading rapidly in-the-wild and expecting this number to increase in the next few days," said Steven Sundermeier, manager of Technical Services at Central Command Inc. Central Command reckons some 2.5 million PC users have been infected in the US alone by the "love bug" or its variants.
Tim Richardson, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

How the hell… do you overclock the Athlon?

Do you have an Athlon microprocessor and want to speed up your chip to run from between 750MHz to over 1GHz for the price of a 550MHz chip?
Fuad Abazovic, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Scythe through the Net to find the Grim Reaper

There may a load of rubbish on the Net but when it comes to the big issues - sex, life, death and Star Trek - it comes into its own. We spend very little of our lives pondering our inevitable demise and when the Grim Reaper does arise, it usually has an disproportionate affect on our psyche. So, in a special service, we have decided to cover what the wibbly wobbly web has to offer when it comes to going. First up is Death Clock, which will kindly tell you exactly when you are going to die to the last second. You also have the option to go for a pessimistic or sadistic lifespan. If it's your 70th birthday today, you've got nearly another four years left. While most people fade and some go tragically, a few will have the state finish them off. Capital Punishment has always been a hot potato and was banned in the UK in 1965, but in many countries the ultimate deterrent is still lawful. This being the Net, most material is US-based and one of the best sites is the death penalty information centre. Visit here is you want to know its history, state-by-state formats, costs, botched executions and a whole host of other information. The more serious and unsavoury a subject, the more humour that can be derived out of it. If you want a laugh, check out this list of top animated death sites. A million and one ways to die are acted out by cartoon characters, mostly stick figures. Download them - you'll die laughing. Things get a bit more morbid at the Natural Death Centre. As the name suggests, this is a pretty hands-on site dedicated to the ins and outs of dying and helping those dying at home. In fact, you can even buy a handbook on the site (or send a donation). A comprehensive section on woodland burial is strangely intriguing - 40 chipboard coffin anyone? If you want to know about dead US relatives, you can check them out through their social securities numbers at ancestry.com. If you don't know their number, you may still find them through their date of birth and city of origin. If you want to give a friend/relative/partner a cyber tribute, the UK's first online funeral parlour has opened at InMemoryOf.co.uk. You can set up an obituary for 25, 80 with photos. Or even add a guestbook for 120. There's not much here yet, but some of the tributes are genuinely touching. Lastly, there is a wealth of information, help and advice for those dealing with recent or impending death as well as sociological studies of what deaths means to different socities at different times. A really good links site which covers most eventualities can be found here. Of course, perhaps the wisest words concerning death come from the renowned ancient text The Tibetan Book of the Dead - which found renewed interest during the acid era in the 60s. It says, and we're paraphrasing here, to understand death is to understand life. There's a thought for the day.
Kieren McCarthy, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Sega rents classic console titles via the Net

Sega has begun offering Dreamcast users 30 games originally written for its pre-Dreamcast consoles for a Y150-a-title download. The service, dubbed DreamLibrary, provides Japanese Dreamcast users with both Sega MegaDrive (aka Genesis) and NEC PC Engine titles, all of which play under emulation on the Dreamcast. Essentially, users pay to download the game and play it for a day. Turn the console off and you lose the game, though you can re-download it for free during the rental period. It's a novel idea, and Sega can claim to have beaten Sony to it. Sony's plans to deliver PlayStation 2 users with a range of entertainment products via broadband Internet links includes the rental of PlayStation 1 titles. But Sony isn't due to launch its service until next year. However, novelty isn't necessarily Sega's only goal here - it's just as much about expanding Dreamcast's range of available software. And there's another side to all this: can the games be downloaded and run under any of the numerous PC-based emulators currently available? It's not clear at this stage whether that's possible or even whether Sega would countenance such a move if it were. But it certainly provides a neat way around the concern the games companies have over the use of technically illegal copies of games with emulators: if you can't beat 'em, sell to 'em. ®
Tony Smith, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Large corporations need 2GHz chips

Intel has made available a white paper on its private dealer Web pages which suggests that IT buyers will need microprocessors of 1GHz and up to 2GHz in order to run Windows 2000. The report, from Competitive Systems Analysis, will bring tidings of good will to Intel Central at Santa Clara, which just loves it when Microsoft produces software that needs a mighty number cruncher to make it tick. According to the report, IT buyers are considering 1GHz PCs and above as they look to modernise their desktops. "A key catalyst has been the emergence of Windows 2000 Professional," the report says. "This next generation PC operating system has a voracious appetite for CPU cycle." The CSA report claims that the move from Windows NT 4 to W2K needs a 300MHz+ hardware upgrade for "comparable foreground application performance". So a firm which has standardised on Pentium III 500MHz PCs using Windows NT WS 4.0, needs to upgrade to 800MHz Pentium IIIs. Ah sweet music to Intel's ears... After the CSA ran a series of three loading scenarios, it says it became clear that a 2GHz client platform "is an imminent reality" for many IT organisations. It adds: "While a 2GHz client platform may be a bit of a stretch at this juncture, a 1.2GHz or a 1.4GHz platform starts to make a lot of sense. Clearly this is the most desirable target frequency range for purchases made in the next 12-18 months." It's clear that here the CSA is talking about Willamette microprocessor technology. According to the report, the performance of today's 800MHz Pentium IIIs "needs to effectively double before these systems can begin to cancel out the overhead associated with a fully deployed Windows 2000 knowledge worker environment. Given our worst case loading scenario, a state of the art Pentium III (866MHz) system will deliver end user application performance on par with a low end Pentium II -- a platform that is three years old." Well, is any of this true, because it is certainly going to be very expensive. According to a story we wrote earlier this year, large corporations don't want 1GHz Pentium IIIs, never mind 2GHz microprocessors. Then, Joe D'Elia, Dataquest senior analyst for microprocessors, said that consumers do not need high clock speeds, and there is something of a backlash against higher and higher chip revs. (Link below). As famous UK hooker Mandy Rice-Davies might have said during the Profume scandal during the 60s: "Well Intel would say you need a 2GHz chip, wouldn't it?"
Mike Magee, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Dual, quad-CPU Power Macs to debut at WWDC?

The latest hints from Apple suggest that the company will not only unveil long-awaited a dual-processor Power Mac G4 at its Worldwide Developers Conference, but a quad-G4 machine too. According to AppleInsider, "Silicon Valley insiders", who appear to have been briefed by Apple representatives, say the machines should arrive on 15 May, the first day of the conference. Both boxes will be based on the 500MHz PowerPC 7400 (aka G4), with two and four of the beasts, respectively. Rumours that Apple is planning a series of multi-processor Macs have been bubbling along nicely since the original Power Mac G4 began shipping last October. And it's certainly a tasty morsel: upping the processor count would provide Apple with a way to catch up with the 1GHz-plus x86 world. Direct megahertz-for-megahertz comparisons aren't exactly valid, but in many peoples' minds Apple has been left behind here. The snag, however, is the availability of a decent multi-processing version of the MacOS. Earlier dual-processor Macs, such as the Power Mac 9500/MP, saw some improvement with the extra chip, but hardly any software supported it - Photoshop and... er... Photoshop - and there was barely any improvement if further processors were added. That's one of the reasons DayStar never made the big time. Apple, of course, does have a solid multi-processing OS in the works, MacOS X, but while that's due to go into final beta during the WWDC, with the commercial release scheduled for the summer, there's little point announcing multi-processor Macs months ahead of the very software that's going to make them worth having. That said, Apple could launch the boxes as servers, running the already-shipping MacOS X Server, but such solutions are unlikely to be much use to Apple's core markets until MacOS X Consumer ships and with it Carbonised versions of Photoshop et al. Much will depend on what else Apple is planning to announce during Steve Jobs' July MacWorld Expo keynote. MacOS X Consumer is almost certainly going to feature strongly here, and what better way to really make it sing than two- and four-processor Power Macs?
Tony Smith, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Windows DLL Hell needs more fixes, says MS MUG

The exquisitely titled Microsoft Manufacturers User Group (MS MUG, oh yes) has sent Microsoft its first feedback report on DLL Hell, and the verdict seems to be that the problem, which is probably the primary source of failure in Windows installations, isn't going to go away in a hurry. MS MUG is a working group including major manufacturing companies and Microsoft, and was set up last year to address issues associated with the application of commercial software technology to manufacturing automation applications. Sure, it sounds dull, but the DLL Hell issue, and quite a few other matters that MS MUG is dealing with, are relevant to a broader range of Windows users. Its first report deals with DLL Hell, version management and related issues, including the high costs businesses face in keeping on top of Microsoft's release cycles. In the past Microsoft hasn't differentiated properly between new OS releases and service packs, which means that business "must continually validate Windows-based systems containing the new releases." Microsoft says it intends to switch over to a dual track approach, separating new software from bug fixes, but "the MUG expects that manufacturing customers will continue to experience a relatively higher degree of software churn due to the need to keep pace with both operating system and application software upgrades." But MS MUG predicts that the dual-track release schedule will likely result in what are effectively annual product releases from Microsoft, and if the company continues its practice of only supporting the current release of a product plus its predecessor, a given product's supported life will fall to only two or three years. "At a minimum," says MS MUG, "the group strives for support a full 5 years beyond when a product is replaced in order for it to be cost-effective in manufacturing applications. This will help manufacturing organizations to effectively plan and test migrations and ensure minimal production impact." Its verdict on DLL Hell is that recent and impending developments improve the situation, but won't eliminate the problem. DLL Hell stems from applications installing alternative DLLs over existing ones which may be critical to the operation of the installation, and in the absence of anything you could even loosely describe as version control, this process has been trashing Windows systems since 3.1. Windows 2000 has Windows File Protection (WFP), which stops key system files from being overwritten, and an equivalent of this will be present in Windows ME. Microsoft has also been giving its operating systems the ability to run multiple different DLLs of the same name, allowing different applications to use the particular version they need. Putting all the software you might need into a big pile of bloat strikes us as a particularly Microsoft fix, but what do we know? MS MUG suggests that this DLL-redirection and side-by-side versioning is a band-aid, rather than a real fix, and points out that "implementation of this functionality... still requires systems administrators to intervene to resolve the issue and eliminates the main benefit of dynamically linked libraries: the ability to save memory by sharing code space." Further information: MS Manufacturers User Group
John Lettice, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Freecom.net buy shows up teenage Web firms

Freecom.net has coughed up 31.9 million for accounting software business Systems Union. Billed as a rejection of the dot.com model, it is simply a case of a businessman, Michael Williams, using the inflated price of Net ventures intelligently, rather than running headlong into a wall like a hormone-crazed teenager. The blind faith and frequent stupidity of Web companies has made Williams' business sense look like a next-generation model. It is far from that - in fact, it is the classic case of buying stability with cash. It's not even new within the Internet economy. There are many companies doing just this (some well, some not so well) but then "Net firm buys into safe bet" is hardly a sexy headline. Williams, Freecom's chief executive, has done a grand job. As well as Systems Union, Freecom has also acquired another accountancy software company, Pegasus (lowish/medium-end, Systems Union is medium/highish-end) and Web site designer Oneview.net. He has used the dotcom cash pile (and of course shares in itself) to build as a firm foundation and allow Freecom to go one of several ways. Becoming an ASP (applications service provider - hiring out software to firms over the internet) is certainly one of them. Then, with this initial setup completed, Williams says he will concentrate on developing e-commerce services for the recently acquired customer base, and throws in the catchline about leaving the flawed dotcom "cash-burn" model behind to get the press interested. Shares have barely budged though. But as we know, the City is always right when it comes to Internet stocks. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

UK's slowest sites named and shamed

Some of Britain's slowest e-commerce sites have been named and shamed in a study that warns that e-commerce revenues could be hit unless e-businesses do more to improve page-serving performance. The CacheFlow study found that Net users in Britain typically have to wait an average of 28 seconds for a Web page to download from an e-commerce site, and that waits of two or three times this figure are not untypical. Sluggish hmv.co.uk, Bookshop.blackwell.co.uk and yahoo.co.uk topped the list of worst offenders with average download times of just under a minute per page. lycos.co.uk and excite.co.uk were speedmonsters by comparison with download times of less than ten seconds. Nigel Hawthorn, European marketing director, CacheFlow said: "Web users are fickle creatures. The Web makes it very easy for a shopper to go elsewhere if they find that a Web site is too slow. "When developing a Web site, e-commerce businesses need to consider how the site is connected to the Internet to minimise wait time for users. "This is ultimately going to be as important as the content on the site," he said. The study looked at 50 UK e-commerce Web sites across 13 business categories over a period of two weeks. The test was conducted using 56k dial-up and ISDN accounts from half a dozen different ISPs. Each site was hit 10 times over the two-week period, at a variety of times throughout the day. Although the research is to be welcomed, it should be noted that the company behind it, CacheFlow, also makes products that speed up Web page delivery. The Best and Worst Fastest UK Web sites
Tim Richardson, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Feds bust Intel insiders for $1 million piracy blag

Five Intel workers from Satan Clara are amongst a gang of seventeen were charged yesterday in what the FBI describes as "The most significant investigation of copyright infringement involving the use of the Internet conducted to date." The group is alleged to have hijacked 5000 pieces of software valued at more than $1 million. The piracy ring, based in Canada at Quebec's Sherbrooke University, called itself "Pirates with Attitude" and also included members in Sweden and Belgium. Four Intel employees are accused of supplying hardware to the crooks in 1998 and a fifth with distributing the illegal software they received in return. Operating systems, applications software, games and MP3 files were all stolen by the group. Also charged was an ex-Microsoft employee, who was accused of supplying the group with illegal software and access to the Redmond internal network. The culprits face a maximum sentence of five years jail, plus a fine of up to $250,000. Intel was unavailable for comment at press time.
Andrew Thomas, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Linux users protest DVD regs on Capitol Hill

An affable group of Linux users from New York City and the Washington DC area converged on Capitol Hill this week, patiently explaining to passers-by that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) is a serious setback for consumers, and hoping to attract the Librarian of Congress' attention as he participated in hearings on the hastily-drafted and quite controversial law.
Thomas C Greene, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

What is the best virus protection?

PC Clinic Having trouble with your brand new machine or with the lovely application software that's cost you an arm and a leg? Our very own PC paramedic, Dr Spinola will guide you through the hardware morass. This week, he discusses virus protection software, sexy CEOs, sexy components and SETI. Q What is the best virus protection you can get? A This is currently what we in the industry call a "hot topic", seeing as so many people have been hit by a Philipino strain of the common cold called I Love You, or as we doctors prefer to call it Microsoftus Outlookus. You can protect against viral attack by putting a face mask on your PC. If it should catch Microsoftus Outlookus, put it to bed immediately, order it to stay there until it feels better, and make sure it drinks plenty of fluid. If you have a PC cooling device, this may help to lower the machine's temperature. Q Which is the sexiest CEO of a PC company A This is not as easy as you might think. While there is little doubt that Carly Fiorina is a handsome woman who I'm sure has caused many a young man to let his eyes stray, my personal favourite is IBM's Lou Gerstner. "Boots", as he is nicknamed, first caught my eye at IBM's famous ranch in upstate New York, when he strolled into the bar and asked for a Bourbon, not long after he had started at the company. The barman said: "We don't serve spirits," to which Boots replied: "You do now." What a hunk. Even though Boots is a real man, I personally prefer Craig "Yeehaa" Barrett of Intel. I managed to get hold of a picture of the man sat on his horse and with his cowboy hat on. He's a real stud. Q What is your favourite component on a motherboard? A You all thought I was going to answer this question by saying CPU, didn't you? Well, it isn't. In my opinion, you can't beat a capacitor for sheer elegance and beauty. Q Someone told me I should install SETI on my machine. What is SETI? A SETI stands for the Search for Extra Transistors Inside. What you do is you open your PC case, get a very fine drill, and open your CPU. Then you start counting the transistors. This can take some time, depending on the microprocessor in your machine. However, expect faster times to complete a SETI round if you have a 286, a 386 or a 486 rather than those new fangled Copperwhoppas.
Mike Magee, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

MS Research: in high gear on the road to nowhere?

Accompanying the announcement that Rick Rashid was officially taking over Microsoft's Research Group was an announcement that its natural language processing (NLP) "hits high gear". But if this is true, it's been a long, slow acceleration process. In nearly ten years of trying to develop applications in the speech and translation area, Microsoft Research hasn't managed to produce one significant released product. There was of course the grammar checker in MS Office, which must rank with Microsoft's big embarrassments, and some trivial work in Encarta queries. And for Microsoft to claim credit for natural language queries in SQL7 is enough to make steam come out of the ears of Oracle and IBM database developers. Microsoft even admits that "as our system matures, it should greatly increase the accuracy of these products". So there we have it: the present products are inadequate. Outgoing Research boss Nathan Myhrvold did once announce that he had sent some speech recognition work to the MS Office team, but it never saw the light of day. For years Microsoft's refrain has been that it would deliver speech recognition when the accuracy was whatever percentage it was that made that unachievable at that point in time. Microsoft has partnered with Lernout & Hauspie to be able to have a speech recognition add-on for MS Office, and even taken a 7 per cent share in the company and put a watchdog on its board. But wisely, L&H has kept its independence, acquired Dragon in the interim (which is reckoned by many users to have the best speech recognition package at the moment), and demonstrated capability approaching what President Clinton was talking about in his State of the Union Address in January: devices that can translate languages as fast as we can speak". Meanwhile, the best devices around are people called interpreters. Microsoft has been asking itself "Why is it taking so long?", and it's the right question. Microsoft has evidently shifted its focus from a speech recognition engine, where there is competition from not just L&H but also from IBM and Philips, to an attempt to understand human language in its NLP group, which has 30 people, managed by Karen Jensen. She was poached from IBM in 1991, along with Stephen Richardson, and is not credited with much in the public domain since her 1993 book, which is mostly about what she learned at the IBM Watson Research Center in the eleven years she was there. Microsoft is working with just seven languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. Microsoft is not shy to mention just how much it is spending on research and development, but the truth is of course that most is spent on development and only a rather small proportion on pure research. There's a long way to go before anything useful is likely to emerge from the NLP group.
Graham Lea, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

AOL damns Which? kiddie filter slams

AOL has accused Which? of unfair tactics over a damning survey into Web filters for children released earlier this week. AOL's Parental Controls v5 filter, one of the seven filters tested by the industry watchdog, has various settings depending on the age of the children using it. Which? chose to set the controls on AOL's filter for 16 to 17-year-olds, which the ISP claims was unfair in a survey evaluating how safe filters were for children. It says Which? should have used the Kids Only setting, which is aimed at the under-12s. "It is absolutely not a fair test of AOL parental controls – they're comparing apples and oranges," said Matt Peacock, AOL's director of corporate communications. "They should have used the kids setting, but instead went for the young adults setting. Parents would not expect 16 or 17-year-olds to have the same kind of restricted access to sites as young children. "It’s very irritating and not an accurate comparison," he said. Which? denied the survey was unfair, saying it had chosen the 16 to 17-year-olds-setting because it thought AOL's Kids Only blocked out too much information. "The under 12 setting appeared to be so restrictive and blocked most of the sites we looked at," said Tessa Russell, senior researcher at Which? She claimed the survey was aimed at parents with teenagers, saying: "We thought the average users would have to be over 12 if they were to use the net unsupervised." Russell said AOL was one of the better performers of the filters tested, but that its 16 to 17-year-old setting still let through sites on bomb making and porn.
Linda Harrison, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee

A court in Dubai is to consider whether a divorce can be carried out by e-mail. The court is set to make its ruling after a man e-mailed his Saudi wife informing her he wanted a divorce. According to an AFP report, under traditional Muslim law a man can divorce a woman simply by telling her. The Register would rather not comment on a matter before the court had the chance to rule on the case. However, we do know someone who was dumped by his "lady friend" by SMS (Short Message Service). It was certainly effective, if nothing else.
Tim Richardson, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

ntl blames ‘overwhelming demand’ for flat-fee ISP delay

Net users who've signed up to the unmetered Net access service from ntl could have to wait another fortnight before getting online. ntlworld e-mailed customers yesterday warning them of the delay and asked them not to contact the ISP or re-register for a CD. One reader was so incensed by the delay he told The Register: "Apparently they've had 'overwhelming demand', but I don't know of one person that's received a CD from ntl yet." The service was scheduled to go live on 17 April. It's understood that ntl is staggering the distribution of CDs in order to manage the rollout of the service and to make sure their system is robust enough to cope with demand. No one from ntl was available for comment by press time.
Tim Richardson, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

MP3.com vs RIAA judge explains his verdict

US District Judge Jed Rakoff has explained his curious ruling in the MP3.com vs the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) case sooner than at first expected. Last week, Rakoff ruled that MP3.com's MyMP3.com virtual CD player service does indeed contravene US copyright law. His reason, explained today: the MyMP3.com music database didn't contain tracks purchased by MP3.com but copied music tracks without permission. The point can be argued both ways. By copying a user's CD to allow that user - and, technically, only that user - to listed to the upload wherever and whenever he or she wishes, is MP3.com breaking the law? MP3.com said no, since its actions were simply an extension of freedoms already permitted by US 'fair use' doctrines: that a CD owner can do whatever he or she likes with the content of that CD provided the content is not made available to others. The judge disagreed. "In actuality, [the] defendant is replaying for the subscribers converted versions of the recordings it copied, without authorisation, from plaintiffs' copyrighted CDs," Rakoff wrote in his explanation. And MP3.com's case wasn't sufficiently water-tight to be protected by 'fair use'. Judge Rakoff's basis for the ruling centres on his belief that MyMP3.com doesn't bring anything new to the music. MP3.com did not add any "new aesthetics, new insights and understandings". Of course, it doesn't, and if MP3.com argued that it did, it was foolish to do so. A TV programme, for example, is the same whether you watch it on air or as a recording made while you were out. Like the VCR case, MyMP3.com is about convenience and nothing more. Why should the fact that the user owns the VCR and MP3.com owns the server make any difference? Provided MP3.com's security is up to par, frankly it shouldn't. MP3.com didn't have permission of the copyright holder? True, but it tacitly had the permission of the track holder - who can copy the track legally - to make that copy on his or her behalf. Perhaps if MP3.com had ensured that each user's uploads were separate from others' the Judge would have ruled differently, since each example becomes literally a transaction between user and MP3.com and no one else. In short, MP3.com's 'crime' is to optimise its storage so that, say, 200 owners of a given track do not need to upload between them 200 copies of it. As we noted when the Rakoff verdict was announced: The Register looks toward the inevitable appeals process for some clear, rational thinking and sane judgment in this matter. We still do.
Tony Smith, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

No email thanks to the virus? Here's what to do

Necessity is the mother of invention. Who said that? Mmm, dunno, but it's nice to see that the good folk down at PR and marketing agency Rainier have been adhering to it. Yesterday the world and its dog was bitten in the wotsit by the Luurve Bug and today we received a list from Rainier of ten things to do when your email system falls over. Good show, we thought, nothing quite like spotting an opportunity for a little gratuitous publicity – something we're all too familiar with. Anyway, here's that list in full: 1 - Talk in loud tones of your wonder at what people did before e-mail. Wonder at your productivity increase; 2 - Find a book on the use of English grammar and amaze yourself at your complete ignorance of how to use it; 3 - Go to the pub early and discuss the merits of continued employment for those who sent or opened a freak email entitled 'I Love You'. Drink to the hackers who caused you to be there; 4 - Blow the dust off your phone book and ring your parents, remind them who you are and explain what email is; 5 - Find the life you left behind when first you logged on. Log off at the last page of the Internet at Wackycreations; 6 - Pull out the Yellow Pages. Ring up market research companies and offer to take part in any surveys they're currently running; 7 - Visit Eeggs to find out how to access hidden games and utilities in common computer operating systems and applications; 8 - Re-programme databases, desktop and mobile phones and fax to account for the recent UK phone number changes; 9 - Set-up a chair racing circuit round your office and line-up the swivel chairs for a spot of office Grand Prix; 10 - Spot the companies trying to cash-in on the Love Bug virus and admire their creative ingenuity. But what about number 11, guys? No 11 – sit around and draw up a list of things to do when the email system falls over.
Sean Fleming, 05 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Bradford on the lookout for cyber snouts

Bradford police have set up an informant section on its Web site. Called Crimebeat, you can anonymously (if you want) email the force with details of Yorkshire troubles. Chief Superintendent Stuart Hyde reckons it could prove a valuable resource to his boys in blue since people will be more willing to email information than make a phone and talk to someone direct. Bradford has long-standing problems with prostitution and drug dealing - two crimes that people are notoriously uncomfortable informing against. Simply fill out the online form, giving basic information as where, when, who and the cyber cops will be on the case. This is a great idea - in crime-ridden areas, the locals invariably know just who is up to what and this information is exactly what the police try to elicit most of time. However, this is the Internet and plenty of precedents exist to suggest that the rozzers' mail box will be inundated with witticisms from spotty 14-year-old geeks, fake information and viruses. But is Mr Hyde (he has a nice side too, according to insiders) not worried about getting some Yorkshire ripping yarns? "We know the site is going to get rubbish on it but I'm hoping for the little gems of information that will get through," he said. Whether this is a reasoned or simply a nave response, only time, luck and millions of bored teenagers will tell. But will the sort of people the Old Bill is hoping to reach out to like this have access to the Internet and email? And of that number, how many will feel comfortable enough with the technology to trust in its anonymity? Here at Vulture Central, the jury is still out on whether this scheme will be a success.
Kieren McCarthy, 05 May 2000